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Legislative Priorities for 2017

2017 State Legislative Priorities

High Academic Standards
-Support rigorous K-12 academic standards that create high expectations for students and that better prepare them for post-secondary or career options.

Fewer, but Better Aligned Tests
-Support an assessment aligned with the state’s K-12 academic standards to accurately measure student achievement.
-Support fewer, better tests as a strategy to increase classroom instructional time.

Strong Accountability for the Classroom
-Support an accountability system that incorporates student achievement and academic growth to improve instruction in the classroom.
-Support investments into teacher preparation programs to ensure talented new educators are recruited, trained, and supported throughout the state.
-Oppose efforts to repeal Tennessee’s new A-F school accountability framework.
-Support the current system for selecting members of boards of education and local school superintendents.

Public School Choice
-Support strategies to turn around and improve underperforming schools that have a demonstrated track record for improving student growth measures.
-Support facilities funding for state or locally authorized non-profit charter schools.


Policy Principles

Tennesseans for Student Success strives to engage the state’s parents, teachers, and community leaders in a common goal of creating and supporting a public education system that prepares students for success after graduating high school. We frame our policy priorities around four key goals:

High Academic Standards— Tennessee’s students will soon be competing for spots in colleges, for jobs, for placements in technical fields, and for prestigious positions in our nation’s Armed Forces with students from across the country. We know our students can compete and succeed, but we also know that they can be better prepared. High academic standards aren’t about fitting more instruction into a school year or making sure every box gets checked. High academic standards are about expecting more from our students, our teachers, our parents, and ourselves.

Fewer, Better Tests— Helping students be successful means that along with helping them learn the necessary skills to move from one grade to the next, we should work to make sure they know how to be successful in life after graduation. Whether in college, a job, or as they file their taxes each year, there will be moments they have to show their competence. It’s harmful to bring students through the education system with the belief that they’ll never have to demonstrate their grasp of a subject or an idea. Tests are a part of life—though they look different and aren’t graded in red ink as an adult—and they need to be a part of the classroom.

Greater Accountability— Public education is a public good – and a great public good at that! While we work together to protect and advance the gains made in Tennessee’s classrooms, we will stay committed to holding all those involved in the classroom accountable for success.

Parent Choice— More than an elected official, more than a school administrator, engaged parents know best the right place where their child can reach his/her full potential. For many students, success in the classroom comes in a traditional school setting. Yet for other students, more focus is needed in certain disciplines or subjects. The goal for education advocates in Tennessee isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Every child in Tennessee deserves a top-notch education that prepares them for success.





Legislative Update – Week of April 25, 2016

You’ll notice there are bills that worked their way through the 109th General Assembly that aren’t listed below. We know the work to make sure every child in Tennessee receives a top-notch Tennessee education is vast and we focus our efforts into four policy priorities: High Academic Standards; Fewer, Better Tests; Greater Accountability; and More Choice in Education.

Without further delay, the 2016 Legislative Session results: 

HJR 496  – Withdrawn – Tennesseans for Student Success supported this resolution.

This resolution highlights safeguards and processes established by the General Assembly and Department of Education (DOE) during the transition to TNReady, including the Task Force on Student Testing and Assessment. The spirit of this resolution was incorporated into elements of HB 1537 and HB 1419.

HB 1537 – Passed – Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

This commonsense legislation provides greater accountability and transparency for TNReady and is the result of countless parent, teacher, administrator, elected official, and community members lending their voices to the state’s Assessment Task Force. This bill reduces the number of state-required assessments by eliminating the 8th grade EXPLORE and the 10th grade PLAN assessments, requires the Department of Education to release a portion of the previous year’s TNReady questions and answers, and provides one voluntary ACT or SAT retake opportunity for all students – free of charge.

HB 1419 – Passed – Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

Provides teachers with options for how results from TNReady, the state’s new annual assessment aligned to the standards taught in the classroom, will affect their evaluations in this transition year.

HB 2629 – Passed – Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

This year’s budget contains the largest investment in education – without a tax increase – in the state’s history. Including money to increase teacher pay, eliminate unnecessary tests, and shore up the historic gains made in our classrooms, this Budget continues the work done that led to Tennessee becoming the fastest improving state in the nation in education.

HB 1473 – Failed / Taken Off Notice– Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

The ACT gives our students options for their future. It lets our teachers see an overall snap shot of where their students are. And it lets the state analyze the overall readiness for college. This bill would have allowed students to opt out of the ACT creating an inaccurate picture of a district’s ability to prepare students for life after high school.

HB 1794 – Failed / Taken Off Notice – Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

By rewarding mediocrity, HB 1704 would have effectively disincentivized the state’s best and highest-achieving teachers. This bill would have tied the hands of local school districts and made it harder for them to reward their top teachers requiring tenure to be extended to teachers who performed at minimally acceptable levels.

HB 2020 – Failed – Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

We believe every student, regardless of zip code, deserves a quality education that prepares them for success. This legislation would have hindered the work to help rescue students trapped in failing Tennessee schools by artificially limiting which students may attend schools in the Achievement School District.

HB 1753 – Failed / Taken Off Notice – Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

This bill weakens the state’s strong accountability measures and would have created an unfair picture of a school’s performance by only including certain kids in a school’s performance measures.

HB 1737 – Failed / Taken Off Notice – Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

This bill would have tied the hands of local school districts while limiting their ability to hire the best and most skilled employees by requiring the school board, not the director of schools, to hire finance, legal, and communication staff for the district.

SB 1606 – Failed – Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

Politics should stop at a school’s front door. Teachers and students don’t need the distractions of political whims – they need a clear mission, the tools to accomplish that mission, and a clear path to success. Senate Bill 1606 would have reestablished a process to elect school superintendents, limiting the pool of qualified candidates to only those living within the county.

HB 858 –Failed – Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

Chronically under-performing schools are failing our kids. Every Tennessee student should have an equal opportunity to succeed and if a student is trapped in a failing school, every week, every semester, every year that we wait to intervene is another year our kids fall further behind. This legislation would stand in the way of that good work creating a process to block the turnaround of underperforming schools.

SB 1984 – Failed – Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

This legislation would have authorized local school districts to choose between TCAP and ACT-based assessments, creating two separate systems of assessment and accountability in Tennessee. By creating two assessment systems, this bill would complicate the state’s ability to compare and contrast district performance depending on which assessments were administered. Tennessee needs a coherent, rigorous, and transparent assessment and accountability system.

HB 2431 – Failed / Taken Off Notice – Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

This legislation would have prohibited a local board of education from requiring student scores on achievement tests to comprise a percentage of the student’s grade in the subject areas of mathematics, reading/language arts, science, or social studies. Currently, ten states report using End of Course (EOC) test scores as a component of course performance. Including EOC results in a student’s final grade ensure that everyone, students, parents, and teachers, are invested in the process and ensure a fair system of accountability.

As you can see, the team at Tennesseans for Student Success hit the ground running this January and have sprinted through the finish of the 109th General Assembly. Along with our partners in education reform, champions of student success in the legislature, and other advocates for students, we are grateful for the work done in the past several months. Again, we offer our profound thanks. We couldn’t do this work without you.

What’s next for Tennesseans for Student Success? Much like a marathon runner, we’ve crossed one mile marker, grabbing some water, and continuing to race with our eyes on the finish line: every student in Tennessee succeeds. We will be busy in the coming months as we continue about our work to support and defend Tennessee’s academic achievement gains and we can’t wait to let you in on our fun plans.

As you’ve seen on Facebook, Twitter, and on our new website, we’re committed to engage heavily throughout the remainder of 2016. The work done in our classrooms absolutely has to be supported and protected in the 110th General Assembly and we’re glad to continue that advocacy with you. In the next few weeks we’ll be announcing another summer project – so stay tuned to your inbox!